Continuing coverage of the Uvalde school shooting
The morning of Tuesday, May 24, 2022, began quietly at Texas Public Radio. The newsroom was quiet and mostly empty. It was an election day, and most of the staff rested at home before beginning a long night of political coverage.
But then, a question was asked: Did anyone know about a possible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas? TPR's Brian Kirkpatrick was sent to investigate.
As he raced to the scene, TPR verified not only that a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School had indeed taken place. It learned that the incident, and a police response to it, was still underway.
Parents had gathered at the elementary school, and their shock and terror swiftly turned to panicked fury as they realized police forces were not aggressively and decisively moving in to save their children.
When Kirkpatrick arrived, he found chaos, shock and blinding anger among parents, teachers, school officials, emergency responders, political leaders, volunteers and legions of local, county, state and federal law enforcement officials who massed at the scene. Confusion, recollections, accusations and rumors were thick in the air.
A gunman killed 19 children and two adults -- it was one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Police killed the gunman.
Law enforcement officers, including the chief of the school district's police force, arrayed in the school's hallways during the incident. They delayed their counterattack out of fears that the gunman would kill them or even more children.
On that and subsequent days, leading officials, including the governor and the chief of the Texas Department of Public Safety, held press conferences that brimmed with inaccurate and contradictory information. Not even the mayor of Uvalde could provide updated and accurate information to emotionally shattered parents.
The entire Texas Public Radio news team and the Texas Newsroom, a collaboration of public radio stations across Texas, spent the following weeks and months analyzing emergency responses, the evolution of state investigations, the flaws in state laws that kept secret primary sources — including police transmissions — from the shooting, and the debate over gun ownership in Texas. Every new detail TPR uncovered seemed to only deepen the tragedy of the incident.
More importantly, TPR's news team listened to the Uvalde community — to the survivors; to the victims' parents, relatives and friends; and to the city's political leaders. TPR illustrated the beauty and depth of their grief, the bitter political awakening of determined parents and even the history of the elementary school.
The team followed the fall of the school district's police chief and then of the district's entire police force. TPR also returned to the community's schools to listen to parents, teachers and students experience their first day of classes since the shooting.
The Uvalde community built multiple memorials to the victims, demanded accountability from school district leaders, involved themselves in state and national political debates over gun ownership, and transformed once cheery annual holidays into solemn moments of remembrance and hope.
Members of the Uvalde community stood before the world to personify the consequences of law gun laws and the cowardice of people sworn to serve and protect their communities, and to serve as warnings to parents everywhere that their children may not be as safe as they once thought.
Uvalde as a historic event was an explosion on the Texas landscape, and TPR worked throughout the rest of 2022 to track the multidimensional shockwaves of that moment.
Its news team continues to analyze and illustrate the nuanced and heartbreaking consequences that still unfold today.
The first step is the same as it was on May 24: to listen to — and to never forget — the voices of the lost and the living.